Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Design & Hue

Yesterday I was noodling around with new motifs and patterns.

Here's what I came up with -- a pattern as yet unnamed.  I started with some fabric I had previously dyed in a pale cerulean blue. I waxed the fabric with the new pattern and overdyed it in a royal blue. This pattern waxes the positive space, with the unwaxed areas comprising the negative space. It can be difficult to imagine ahead of time how this type of pattern will realize on cloth.

I can see a lot of potential for this motif. When I come up with a new pattern, my first thoughts always turn to color. I try and imagine what hues would work for the pattern. Since dyes are transparent and mix like light, overydyeing is something that has to be thought through carefully.

Yesterday I waxed this pattern on white silk hemp and dyed it in royal blue and the effect is beautiful. I think this pattern would also look stunning in black and white on silk hemp. I can also see this working well with a pale tan background and a darker siena brown for the patterning.  Also yellow & red might work too. More later!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Getting Organized

Over the last six months I've run many swatch tests combining primary dye hues in varying proportions. Until now, I've just been storing them in a big pile in a drawer. Yesterday I decided I really wanted to get these swatches organized, to make it easier for me to flip through them and combine them together to create unique palettes.

I cut my swatches to 5" by 8" and using spray adhesive glued them to same size index cards.  Now they are easier to look through and store. I have them stored in a file box.

It just occurred to me that these fabric cards are also easier to mail than loose fabric and could easily be mailed. Hmm. I'm thinking about how to design a swatch loaner program.....more ruminating to come!

Monday, November 14, 2011


A friend has ordered a custom tablecloth and twelve napkins. But they have to be just the right hue of purple! After running many swatches, we hit on just the right one.  It's great to think someone will use and enjoy my fabric for a long time around a table of fellowship.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Linen Blues

Here are some batiks I did a day ago. Love this soft blue. The funny thing is that this dye was some old navy blue dye that has been sitting around for several months. Its potency has faded and I'm glad for the soft denim that I got. I probably won't be able to make this color again!

These are on 100 percent hemp linen, with one on a silk hemp blend (top left corner Caracol). I wasn't sure how the silk hemp would dye -- often fiber reactive dyes shift color on silk and are very different than the same dye on cotton or hemp.

If there's time today, I'm going to start working on some black and white batik.

Patterns shown from top left clockwise are Caracol, Minoan Fishscale, Mesa, Nimes Mosaic and Flower Trellis.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Creating a Feather

After much procrastination, I'm started to work on a feather for Jude Hill's Magic Feather Project.  I'm using an arashi shibori piece I made a few weeks ago. The 45 degree patterning of the arashi shibori is a natural soulmate, I think, for a feather. I cut the piece apart and sewed it together. This is one side.

This is the other side. Haven't decided which side to use yet. They both offer lots of possibilities.

This is a 100 percent hemp linen that is a pleasure to hand stitch.

I've also hand dyed some embroidery floss in the same blue hue. I think I'll use that to stitch the outline of the feather and to perhaps embellish a bit.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fall Changes

Fall ushers in cooler weather, a soggy carpet of leaves, and new pathways.

I'm waxing some fabrics today -- hemp and silk hemp. Later today, they'll go into the dyebath.

I've tinted this photo sepia so you can better see the wax.

New pathways I'm pondering today --- indigo hemp batiks.  Also, a silk screen kit sits in my studio lures me into new art forms.

New ideas bring anxiety, but excitement too. The air is crisp and so are the opportunities.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cool Miami Palette Fabric Bundle

Cool Miami
The beauty of fabric reactive dyes is the incredible range of hues you can achieve by mixing pure dyes.

Here's another bundle of fabrics I'm calling "Cool Miami". This is a a five step gradation palette mixed using a pure blue and a pure yellow. Doesn't it evoke thoughts of warm sand, cool blue green water, and icy cold drinks of limeade?

I'll be offering a bundle in my store soon. This palette will also be available by the yard at $18 a yard for cotton. I'll be trying it out on my favorite organic cotton and hemp blend soon also.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dyeing by Numbers 'Round the Color Wheel

Fen Palette
The color wheel is an important -- no critical -- tool for anyone working with color. I first started studying the color wheel when I became interested in interior design. I love a colorful home and learning how to put colors together to set a mood or evoke an atmosphere is fun and inspiring. One of the first books I studied when I was trying to decide on paint and furnishing colors for my home is Interior Color by Design by Jonathan Poore. It's a detailed primer on color theory and how it translates into interior design. This was my introduction to the color attributes of hue, value and chroma. Poore details different types of color schemes like monochromatic, analogous and complementary. His book is a terrific resource on color that can be applied to many art forms.

Understanding color is especially important for fabric dyers. Just like with interior paint, mixing dyes is subtractive color. Subtractive because every time you add a color to the mix, light energy is absorbed and a darker color is the result. If you combine all of the subtractive primaries (magenta, turquoise and yellow) in equal proportions, you'll get black, where all light energy has been absorbed.

When working with dyes, we can use more than three primary colors, because dye manufacturers make more than three pure (unmixed) reds, blues and yellows. This increases tremendously the number of secondary and tertiary colors we can create from pure dyes.

My project over the summer is to create swatches exploring combination of 11 pure dyes, as well as combining various sets of three primary colors in a 10 step process to create a color triangle.  That's a lot of swatches!

I got the idea for combining three primaries in a 10 step process from Linda Knutson's excellent book Synthetic Dyes for Natural Fibers. If you buy only one book on fabric dyeing, buy this one! Linda's explanation of how the color wheel works relative to fiber reactive dyes is outstanding.

I'll be offering small samplers of the swatches I'm making for sale. All of these hues are available by custom order by the yard. I can dye them on mercerized 100% cotton or on a hemp/cotton blend.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Miss Scarlet

Scarlet red....a bold and bright hue that I love when I'm looking for a true red. Not a dark red, toned with black. Or a plum red, swirled with blue. But what I'd consider a pure primary red. It does have a slight orangey tint to it...ever so slight.

 For this piece, I used 100% hemp linen. I really love this fabric! It is soft and durable. And best of all, it is easy to sew. That means it is a dream for creating stitched shibori.  For the piece on the left, I tied marbles into the fabric before dyeing it. This is a simple technique, but it creates lovely irregular circles. I call it "jellyfish" because it does remind me of schools of jellyfish I've seen in the ocean.

The second piece is an arashi shibori. I folded the fabric onto a PVC pipe and wrapped it with thick twine. Because it is wrapped on an angle, the resulting lines are on the diagonal and alternate direction across the cloth. There were four layers of cloth on the pole, and the contrast of the pattern varies, depending on how close the fabric is to the dye. This technique makes unique and beautiful cloth and no two pieces are ever alike.  A looser weave cloth like this hemp linen is a perfect candidate for arashi, because it allows the dye to penetrate the layers more easily.

These pieces would be terrific for a creation of fiber art because they are easy to hand sew. The fabrics are colorfast. Hemp does unravel easily, so that's something to take into consideration.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Spring Cleaning my Studio

I've been in a cleaning frenzy lately. First I spent two days cleaning my filthy house. Vacuuming, wiping floors on hands and knees, washing rugs...

Now I'm extending my cleaning binge to my studio. I'm bursting out of my fabric containers and need to pare down to make room for new fabrics. So, every day this week I'll be listing new fabric on sale.

So far, purple and blue fabrics have been added to the Sale section. More will be added every morning this week. These are a really great value. Shibori fabrics originally priced at $28 per yard are now $16; half yards are $8 instead of $14. 

Check it out!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

More freeform fun, this time in warm hues

Here's another group of fabrics I hand painted using a variety of tools, like sponges, rollers, paint brushes, and stencils.

To keep the finished product harmonious, I used several hues that are close to each other on the color wheel:  fuchsia, bright orange, bright yellow, and golden yellow.

I layered the colors on top of each other to give the fabrics depth and extra interest.  

The best part of painting fabric freeform is that you can't really make a mistake! If you're not happy with it, you can always paint over it with more dye paint in a darker hue, or add another layer of texture on top.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Happy Hemp

 Happy Hemp in a bundle is priced right at $20.  You'll get eight pieces measuring approximately 14" by 9".  A great way to jumpstart that project you've been meaning to get off the ground.  These hemp fabrics are very stitchable. Meaning they are easy to sew by hand with needle and thread, due to their lower threadcount. How do I know?  I've tested them using stitched shibori and they work beautifully. Making some magic cloth for Jude's SpiritCloth class? This hemp bundle is a great way to get a mix of hues and design in one little package. Happy stitching!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

More fun with the Fun Bundle

This fun bundle of cotton fabrics has been extremely popular with my clients. After a couple weeks where I wasn't able to offer it, I've restocked it.  A nice assortment of hues, all dyed on mercerized cotton. Soft, easy to sew for quilting or crafts, and a great value. Let me know what you make and I'll post a picture on my facebook page. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Freeform in blue

Found and repurposed objects are an endless source for designs and ideas. Here, I used some burlap (bought to shade some transplants from the searing heat) and a paint grid to make some cool, blue fabric. I used four different dyes, but because they are all hues of blue, the effect is harmonious and soothing.

Layering grid textures in soft and hard lines keeps it interesting and allows the darker grids to acquire a three dimensional quality. They almost seem to float on the soft backdrop. This would have been very boring on plain white.
Dig around in your drawers and see what you come up with.  It's just a matter of looking at your "stuff" in a new way. Most importantly, have fun.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

freeform play

Sometimes it's nice just to pressure, no rules, just foolin' around. 

A new sandbox and impromptu "tools"

scrunch, sponge, squish, squirt

aahh. Nice.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Garden Surprises

When I don't have my hands in a dyebath, I have them wrist deep in dirt in my garden.

This is a clump of Verbascum I started from seed last spring. They didn't do much last year, but this year is another story. They are stunning.

I bought the seed from Thompson & Morgan and started them in small pots in early spring. I had a few blooms last summer, but as with most perennials, they really came in their own this, their second year.

I've read that these are not true perennials, but biennials, so I'll start some more this year, just to be on the safe side.

The chartreuse leaves on the right are Agastache Golden Jubilee. They will flower in summer through fall, with purple spikes providing a complement to the yellowy green leaves. 

We can't grow delphiniums here in Virginia; it gets  hot too early. These verbascum are a pretty good substitute though for a tall spiky plant with airy, delicate blossoms.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Tax Man Cometh so enter my Gift Certificate Giveaway

Dear readers,

I hope you've finished your taxes. I haven't. Still plugging away. In honor of taxes being due April 18 this year, I'm having a giveaway.

The giveaway is really a moving present from me to you, in honor of moving my store to ArtFire from Etsy. ArtFire offers easy gift certificates that don't impose fees on the seller, so I'll be offering gift certificates in my store very soon.  But I wanted to try one first and make sure they work well. 

My giveaway is an $18 gift certificate to my ArtFire store. A pretty nice way to celebrate a move, and it will cushion your tax burden by a teeny tiny amount.

I'm only imposing one rule. To enter the giveaway, you have to post a comment to this blog post, telling me about a sewing project that is more taxing than you thought it would be when you first embarked on it. We've all had those experiences. You read the instructions for inserting the zipper, and it seems like a snap. You struggle for 2 hours to no avail. The project gets pushed under a bunch of other unfinished gems in a box at the back of the closet. Sound familiar?

Anyway, post your comments between now and April 18. I'll have the drawing on the 18th and hope to bring a smile to someone's face.

Monday, April 11, 2011

more fun with itajime shapes

My favorite thing to do is play. Play with techniques, dye, fabric. This weekend I played some more with itajime. I created fabric sandwiches with different shapes.  Here's a heart that turned out fairly well. I didn't get quite the definition I wanted on most of the pieces I worked on, including this heart. I suspect my problem is that I soaked the fabric beforehand in warm water. My hunch is that the water soaked fibers actually prevented the dye from penetrating thoroughly. The top layer (top half of the fabric to the left) has good definition, but the layers underneath are blotchy. Presoaking might be a good thing to do with silk, but I am having my doubts about using this method with cotton and hemp.

Today I'll be clamping and using my usual tub dye method without the water pre-soak, and we'll see what happens.

I love, love, love this flower motif. If I can improve the definition, I think this could be really gorgeous. So far this is my favorite.
Here's a small piece that I blocked out with two triangles, leaving just a small corridor for the dye to penetrate. This could be a great frame for some beautiful stitching.

Working on these pieces makes me want to create some really lovely pillows, with itajime patterns centered in a square or rectangle of hemp linen. Hmm... more to ponder. As usual, so many ideas, too little time.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stitchin' Hearts

Stitched shibori is all about symmetry. Here's a heart I stitched recently. You can still see the crease where I folded the fabric before I stitched it.

I'm not sure how I got this color. A splash of lime green, a jigger of golden yellow....It looked nothing like this when it was in the dyebath. The final hue was only revealed after several washes in hot water.

I pulled out my Benjamin Moore fan deck and the closest match is Yolk #2023-10.

I decided to stitch the hearts close together so they are linked together, like parent to parent and parent to son and parent to daughter and son to daughter. Irrevocable bonds that can never be broken by adversity or ill-fortune. Links that bind and hold with love and patience. Life-long, love-long connections.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Experimenting with Hemp and Itajime

I'm kind of a perfectionist. I don't feel comfortable selling any fabrics until I've tested and re-tested techniques. I just don't think folks should be using their hard earned money to buy my mistakes or my "almost worked" projects.  Being an artist of any medium requires skillful techniques and methods, acquired through many hours of learning and experimenting. Working in fiber is no different.

Itajime is the only method I haven't really experimented with yet using the new hemp cottons I acquired recently.

I've been clamping and dyeing small pieces to see how well the color penetrates the fibers. It's always best to work with small samples first when you're working with a new fabric, then move up to larger, more complex pieces. 

These pieces are roughly 14" by 9". They are perfect for squeezing in during lulls between larger jobs and for using left over dyes. I've been clamping circles, squares and petal shapes.

I've found that 16 layers of fabric is pretty much the limit for this fabric. More than that and you start losing definition in pattern.

This hemp cotton has a translucent quality I am really growing fond of. It feels and looks organic and comfy. Not as smooth and polished as the cotton I normally use, but I like that. I can imagine it being used to wrap a loaf of freshly baked bread or as a bag for some just picked greens from the garden.

These samples will be gifts tucked in with other purchases of sustainable fabrics.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Making Hemp Organic Cotton Exploration Bundles

Over the last few weeks, I've been working on creating bundles of hemp fabrics. Not very many folks are familiar with hemp. It is a very versatile bast fiber, and most importantly to me, it does not require the same level of pesticides, herbicides, and finishing chemicals as conventionally raised cotton. I've been experimenting with different fabrics made from 100% hemp and blends of hemp woven with cotton and silk.  I'm creating bundles of hemp fat eighths, themed by color, that will showcase a range of fiber techniques. Each bundle will have a sampling of low water immersion, pole wrapped shibori, stitched shibori, and Jackson shibori. Jackson shibori is shibori of my own invention, using traditional techniques as a starting point, but with innovative techniques I've developed through trial and error.

I've found that I actually prefer the hemp fabrics for stitched shibori. The fabric is very easy to needle, much easier than needling high threadcount cotton. The stitched shibori patterns are even crisper on hemp than on cotton. That surprised me.

I thought that a lower threadcount fabric like hemp would not work as well for stitched shibori, but I was very pleasantly surprised!  Here are examples of a 100% hemp linen I just finished dyeing yesterday:


I've also been using a silk hemp blend, that works beautifully whether pole wrapped or stitched. It has the drape and weight of a heavier weight silk. Here's a terracotta orange piece, stitched using ori nui stitching.

It also works well with pole wrapped techniques:

and low water immersion, as in this vibrant blue piece.

I'm also going to include some organic cotton gauze in the bundles. This has become one of my absolute favorites. This fabric is certified organic cotton, milled in the U.S. It has a light airy feel and a soft hand. Here it is shown in three hues, chartreuse green, dark red, and navy blue.
 Finally, I've been using a hemp cotton blend, similar to a light weight linen. You'll see it referred to as "summer cloth" on some websites. It is very sheer, light weight, and very easy to needle, because of its looser weave. It is woven from 45% certified organic cotton and 55% hemp.

I've found it works very well for both pole wrapped and stitching techniques. Here, I've stitched leaf and triangle shapes using ori nui stitching prior to dyeing it in a dark terracotta.

I'm planning to list these bundles very soon in my ArtFire store. Each bundle will have 8 fat eighths, for a total of one yard of hemp/cotton fabrics. I'll attempt to include a variety of methods, with at least one stitched shibori piece in each bundle. Each bundle will feature hues of either red, blue, green or orange. Eventually, I'll make some black and grey bundle too.

Thanks for reading, and happy dyeing (and or stitching!).